How To Treat Huntington's Disease With Ayurveda

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According to ayurveda, the first line of treatment involves basti or enema using herbal oils or decoctions to help counter vata imbalance and improve motor symptoms. Next, purgation therapy is used to treat the pitta imbalance which causes mental symptoms like anxiety, mania. The last step involves shirodhara, nasya followed by oil massages to help correct the gait.

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a genetic disorder that causes gradual breakdown of nerve cells, especially in special cells called the basal ganglia situated in the brain.1 Ayurveda refers to genetic disorders as beeja dosha but doesn’t offer many details about such conditions.

Ayurveda identifies Huntington’s disease as closest to tandava roga, a neuromuscular disease.

Ayurveda also cannot identify any particular disease that corresponds to Huntington’s, but the symptoms, which signify chiefly a vata dosha imbalance, are similar to a neuromuscular condition called tandava roga that is mentioned in Sharangdhara Samhita, a classical Ayurvedic text.

A recent case study shows that an Ayurvedic treatment regimen for tandava roga, including medication and procedures like nasya, shirostalam, abhyanga, and basti, improved the symptoms of chorea (involuntary jerking or trembling) in a 47-year-old woman with Huntington’s.2

Symptoms Of Huntington’s Disease Common With Tandava Roga

The motor symptoms are chiefly because of an increase in vata dosha.

Motor Symptoms

  • Angani chalayet or tremors or jerky movements in hands and legs – a symptom that can be identified as chorea
  • Nrutyanniva chalati, which refers to the gait of a dancer (nrutya being the Sanskrit term for dance) or unstable gait

Psychological Symptoms

The secondary involvement of pitta dosha manifests mostly in the mental aspects of the disease.

  • Bheebhatsa mukha or confusion and irritability
  • Adheera or anxiety and phobia
  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep and waking up frequently

Symptoms Suggesting An Increase In Vata Dosha

  • Jerky movements
  • Dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions)
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Impaired gait
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Lack of awareness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of previously learned skills
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue and loss of energy

Symptoms Suggesting An Increase In Pitta Dosha

  • Mania
  • Bipolar disorder

Overall, there is primary involvement of vata dosha increase, with secondary involvement of pitta dosha. The effect of pitta dosha abnormality is seen mostly in the mental aspects of the disease.

How To Treat Huntington’s Disease With Ayurveda

The following steps are crucial in treating the root causes of several symptoms in Huntington’s disease. Please note that none of these should be undertaken without the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner.

1. Balance Vata Dosha With Basti

The large intestine is the main region of vata dominance, and by controlling vata dosha here, the entire body can be relieved of vata imbalance. This is why basti or enema in panchakarma treatment is useful in Huntington’s disease.

Usually, a combination of decoction enema (asthapana basti), such as a decoction of eranda roots or a milky decoction of dashamula, and fat enema (anuvasana basti) with herbal oil or ghee, such as ashwagandhadi ghritam (ashwagandha ghee), is planned. They are given on alternate days for a period of 8, 15, or 30 days.

Asthapana Basti

  • Erandamuladi kashaya basti
  • Dashamula kashaya basti
  • Dashamula ksheera basti
  • Raja yapana basti
  • Mustadi yapana basti

Anuvasana And Matra Basti

  • Ashwagandhadi ghritam
  • Brihat Chagalyadi ghritam
  • Guggulutiktakam ghritam
  • Tiktakam ghritam
  • Ksheerabala tailam
  • Mahamasha tailam
  • Sahacharadi tailam
  • Brihat Saindhavadya
  • Tailam Bala tailam

2. Treat Pitta Dosha With Virechana Panchakarma

Because there is involvement of pitta, based on the level of pitta increase, virechana panchakarma treatment or purgation therapy is also planned to help control the mental symptoms such as mania, anxiety, lack of sleep, and confusion. Learning disabilities associated with Huntington’s disease can be improved by this method by stimulating pitta.

3. Treat Mental Symptoms With Nasya And Shirodhara

After basti and virechana are done, to control the mental symptoms, nasya treatment with brahmi ghee or pancha gavya ghee is very useful. In this method, these ghees are instilled into the nose.

Follow this up with shirodhara treatment with takra (buttermilk) or Ayurvedic oils such as Ksheerabala taila, Mahamasha taila, and Dhanwantharam taila.

4. Improve Motor Skills With Abhyanga

To correct the gait and to treat dystonia, regular abhyanga or Ayurvedic oil massage with Balashwagandhadi taila, Mahamasha taila, and Dhanwantharam taila is very helpful.

Oral Ayurvedic Medicines For Huntington’s Disease

Please note that none of these medicines should be consumed without consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Kashayam Or Herbal Decoctions

  • Maharasnadi kashayam to relieve dystonia and jerky movements and to treat the pain and swelling that the patient may suffer due to altered gait
  • Prasarinyadi kashayam to relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation
  • Drakshadi kashayam to balance both vata and pitta dosha to treat mental aspects of the disease
  • Gandharvahastadi kashayam
  • Sahacharadi Kashayam

Asava/Arishtam Or Herbal Fermented Liquids

  • Balarishtam to calm the nerves
  • Saraswatharishtam to improve memory and concentration
  • Ashwagandharishtam to improve muscle strength and induce sleep
  • Draksharishtam to calm the mind and treat mania

Vati/Gulika Or Tablets And Capsules

  • Yogaraja guggulu to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Brahmi bati to improve memory and concentration
  • Shallaki to relieve dystonia
  • Ksheerabala 101 capsule

Rasayanam Or Rejuvenators And Leham Or Confections

  • Ashwagandha rasayanam to improve motors skills
  • Ajashwagandha rasayanam
  • Ajamamsa rasayanam
  • Drakshadi rasayanam or drakshadi leham
  • Kushmanda rasayanam

Can Ayurveda Cure Huntington’s Disease?

Since this is a genetic disorder, a complete cure cannot be promised. But the mental aspects can be very well improved so as to enable the patient to get through the day easily, at least in the early and middle stages. Physical symptoms are the hardest to cure. However, if the disease is diagnosed early, then motor skills can be maintained or even improved.

Since it is a chronic disorder, treatment will be required on a continuous basis for a very long time. If the symptoms are severe and persist for 2–6 weeks, based on the choice of panchakarma therapy, in-patient hospital care is advised.

References   [ + ]

1.Schroll, Henning, and Fred H. Hamker. “Basal Ganglia dysfunctions in movement disorders: What can be learned from computational simulations.” Movement Disorders 31, no. 11 (2016): 1591-1601.
2.Girish, K. J., Amit Kumar, Devendra Kaushik, and Diwakar P. Joshi. “Management of Huntington’s Disease through Ayurveda–A Case Study.” Journal of Ayurveda and Holistic Medicine (JAHM) 3, no. 3 (2015): 53-57.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Dr Janardhana Hebbar

Senior Ayurvedic Consultant at CureJoy, Dr. Hebbar has authored 4 books on Ayurveda. Special interests are Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine) and Shalya chikitsa (Surgery).

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